PLAY: Video game and other tech toy gift suggestions

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The character interactions are quite amusing, especially when it comes to Gimli. In a joke from the film, taller characters can pick up the dwarf and throw him - not just to get across a gap, but also to break bricks with his axe. Likewise, Legolas and his bow, Gandalf with his wizard staff and Samwise with his frying pan add some nice elements apart from characters who just have a sword.

If you love video games, the Lord of the Rings movies and Lego, this game is a nice combination of all three. Youll be playing this one for a while in order to unlock all of the characters and complete the side quest missions - but thats a good thing.

- Keith Shaw

Assassins Creed 3


The latest game in the Assassins Creed series features a new protagonist (farewell, Ezio, we knew you well) and a new location. No longer roaming through Italy, we jump ahead a few hundred years to colonial America - specifically Boston and New York. This time, you get to fight a lot of British soldiers and help the Americans in their revolution.

But before that, you have to go through a pretty lengthy prologue segment, in which you play as the main characters father as he goes from London to the colonies. Its an odd situation that may frustrate you if youve played the other games - you may keep saying to yourself - when do I get the guy with the tomahawk? While the open world nature of the game allows you to stray from the main missions, if you do that early on in the game it may take you a long time before you get to Connor, the guy in all of those TV commercials.

If youve played any of the Assassins Creed games before, the layout will be pretty familiar. As an assassin, you have a number of different weapon options available to you, and you can kill your targets in many different ways. Theres a lot of running and jumping and climbing on buildings and trees as well, and it all looks so fluid on the screen.

For this history nerd, the added bonus of seeing the painstakingly accurate depictions of colonial Boston and New York was a thrill. One of the first things I did after getting off the boat in Boston was to find Fanueil Hall and climb to the top of it to look at Boston Harbor.

But if youre not into sightseeing, theres still enough for you to do - whether thats stay with the main missions or complete the myraid of side missions and other random quests that come your way. Its another solid game from Ubisoft, Im sure well be seeing more of these games in the future.

- Keith Shaw

Halo 4


Im one of those people who has nostalgia for the Halo series. I remember going store to store to buy my first Xbox, not because I was sold on the system but because I wanted to play the game. Every release since then I have waited with bated breath for the clock to strike midnight so I could be one of the first to get my copy. Because of that nostalgia I was apprehensive about Bungie not being part of Halo 4. I have not been disappointed. The new development team from 343 Industries has produced one of the best Halo games I have played so far. Not only are the graphics rich and beautiful, the unfolding story is beautiful as well.

Master Chief is a man who has become so entrenched in his Spartan obligations he has almost lost touch with the world around him. The only thing that seems to keep him normal is Cortana - Master Chiefs AI. The story unfolding between them is emotionally rich. Its explained that Cortana is suffering from something referred to as Rampancy. When AI reach 7 years of service they begin to break down - Cortana has been in service 8 years now. You start to see blips of Cortanas demise though wonky visuals, strange voice errors, and the concern on her very human face. Master Chief will do anything in his power to return her to Earth so he can save her.

Some of the storyline is difficult to consume, I imagine this is especially true for those who are new to the Halo series. At the close of Halo 3 we see a pact between the covenant and humans- however with the opening of Halo 4 the covenant is attacking and its not clear why. There is a new race introduced called the Promethians, though their backstory isnt exactly clear either. Halo 4 makes up for some of that by packing a punch with the familiar grunts, elites, ghosts and needlers. It also introduces many new weapons, reinvents some familiar battle grounds, and even features a mech vehicle. There is nothing like hopping inside a destructive robot and being able to blast and stomp your way through floods of enemies.

Though Im not finished with the campaign (about halfway through) I have found it incredibly enjoyable. Its holding my interest and at many times has found me on the edge of my seat. Multiplayer is just as fast paced as its always been. The new Spartan ops missions will release weekly in tandem with cinematic episodes will reveal more detailed information on the campaigns intricate storyline.

Despite a thick storyline to wade through, Halo 4 is brilliant. If youve never played a game in the Halo series Halo 4 will make you fall in love. If youre like I was, nostalgic and skeptical, fear not. Halo is in good hands at 343 Industries.

- April Ramalho

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This story, "PLAY: Video game and other tech toy gift suggestions" was originally published by Network World.

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